Una Classe di Suoni – Musical Workshop for Children in Milan, Italy

Project location: ITALY, Milan
Project start date: January 2012 - Project end date: May 2013
Project number: 2012-064
Beneficiary: Fondazione Accademia d’Arti e Mestieri dello Spettacolo Teatro alla Scala


It is a known fact that the Italian educational system accords no room whatsoever to music in its syllabus.
In order to make up for this deficiency, schools often hire external teachers to give short courses in music.
Just as often, though, a growing lack of funds is forcing schools to assign such workshops to whoever makes the ‘best offer' (with predictable repercussions on quality) or, in the worst of cases, actually to cancel them altogether.
Yet, musical education is a sensitive issue and the problem has been noted by many.
All this is testified to in a research paper entitled, "Opera Music and the Young Generation", written by the educationalist, Carlo Delfrati, in joint cooperation with the Scala Academy: taking the lack of a musical education in Italian schools as its starting point, this publication collects the results of a survey into the various initiatives taken and methods adopted by European theatres, with the aim of offering theatre operators and educationalists as wide a panorama as possible of the varied repertory of theatrical initiatives promoted by the theatres. The final aim of the study is, on the one hand, to set out the reasons why it is necessary to bring children and teen-agers into contact with the Opera, whilst also identifying the obstacles standing between the two, and on the other hand, to focus on a set of strategies that can make the language of Opera more accessible to a young public.
Quirino Principe, one of the greatest living musicologists, has in one of Italy's most authoritative newspapers, ‘Il Sole 24 Ore', stressed the fundamental importance of keeping and increasing the amount of practical music courses available in schools, starting from kindergarten level.
To include music in the syllabus of compulsory education is of fundamental importance not only to keep one's cultural identity alive or for the positive effects that an artistic, and in particular a musical education, have on cognitive development, but also because it can be used as a means of breaking down social barriers, which, in ever more multi-ethnic classes, form with increasing propensity.

"Una classe di suoni" is a project consisting of a series of workshops that will be provided in 10 different educational institutions in the area of Milan, giving children the opportunity of experiencing music and opera first hand.
Priority shall be accorded to schools situated in impoverished neighbourhoods with a high density of recent immigration.
The educational institutions shall be selected jointly in cooperation with the Regional Educational Office and Local Offices.
All the courses will be held by experts from Accademia Teatro alla Scala following a method based on creativity encouraging the active participation of the pupils, under the supervision of the coordinators in the Academy's educational team.

Each of the schools participating on this 5-month project (January 2013 - May 2013) will be able to choose from two courses, one tied to the expression of the body through music and the other to singing:

1. The Sounds of the Body

Duration: 16 one-hour sessions held weekly
The project aims to reveal the body's musicality to children by exploring its vocal and rhythmic capabilities through rhythmic-melodic and percussive (body percussion) exercises, to demonstrate the powers of the human body as a primary musical instrument. The workshop aims to develop imitational skills and oculomotory coordination through games that stimulate pupils' learning powers encouraging them to assimilate the basic elements of musical language.

The first stage of the course is structured so that the children may through a series of steps gradually learn how their bodies are able to act in conjunction with the space surrounding them, through the handling of a range of different objects and by bodily contact with others.
In this part of the project the exercises are similar to those offered in theatre courses: they need to walk around the classroom in a state fully conscious of their surroundings, which is in part achieved by concentrating on the sounds and noises generated by the environment surrounding them, as they investigate the infinite range of movements a body can take.
During the second stage, listening to music, gesticulation and body movement combine in body expression exercises between pairs and in groups, such that by the end of the course, the children will of be able independently to construct forms with their bodies in harmony with the music on the course.
A primary concern of the teaching staff is to establish an individual relationship with each of the pupils from the very beginning of the course.

The following are a list of the participants directly involved in each workshop:
• 25 primary school children:
• 2 primary school teachers;
• 1 workshop operator;
• 1 scene photographer;
• 1 video-maker;
• 2 educational coordinators from Accademia Teatro alla Scala.

The workshop is divided into three stages:
Stage 1 - Body Expression Exercises
The aim of the first stage is to make the children progressively aware of their bodies and of all its potential.
The first exercises are intended to make the children more aware of the space surrounding them, through a series of specific exercises involving movements of the body in space.
The focus of the activities will move progressively away from space-related exercises and increasingly to body-related ones, concentrating on child's physicality: the pupil will first be encouraged to explore the infinite possibilities for movement possessed by each of the body's parts (starting from its smallest parts, such as eyes or fingers, and on till all its parts are involved in one whole harmonious movement), later, the focus will move to discovering how a number of different bodies can relate to each other.
The greater self-awareness acquired by the children at this stage will help them overcome certain emotional barriers that will enable them to perform the exercises in the later stages more easily, as well as to start a process of social interaction both with their peers and their instructor.

Period: January/February 2013
Total number of hours: 6
• Walking through space:
• The body and its infinite movements:
• Making contact with others in space.
• Exercises on movement in space;
• Theatre training;
• Pre-dancing techniques and bodily expression.

Stage 2- Soundscapes
The second stage will also see the element of sound introduced. As in the previous section, this one will start by focussing on the surrounding environment, by distinguishing among the various sounds and noises coming from it, after which the exercises will gradually move their focus to the pupils' bodies.
The will be asked to associate a single sound with a particular movement, and a series of sounds with a series of movements, so as to give them an idea of melody in a way that is both natural and recreational.
Period: March/April 2013
Total number of hours: 7
• Listening attentively to silence and the sounds coming from the surrounding environment;
• Listening to a sound and transforming it into a movement of the body;
• Listening to melody and transforming it into body movement.
• Group listening exercises;
• Individual and group exercises, theatre training linked to music.

Stage 3: Final Performance
The final performance is an important way of viewing the objectives reached at the end of the workshop, however, the children will experience it as a festive celebration without any hint of stress.
Period: May 2013
Total number of hours: 3
• Staging a short performance based on the exercises done during the workshop.
• Group session discussing the most effective exercises in the workshop;
• Creating a story using brainstorming techniques

2. In time with the music!

Duration: 16 one-hour sessions held weekly
Listening and sensorial stimuli in general are a fundamental part of a child's education. A most important aspect that the course gives especial attention to is the dimension of play and consequently enjoyment, which at the same time develops the children's powers of attention and instils in them respect for the rules of the game.
The course structure includes an initial stage when children learn to experiment with their voices in a creative way, to pass from speaking to singing, and to explore the creative possibilities of percussion, both by using their hands and bodies, as well as by using musical instruments such as drums, rattles and claves.
The pupils are then guided along progressive stages of vocal awareness, as they develop the skills required to sing all-vocal musical pieces or ones with a piano accompaniment, for 2 or 3 voices, and percussion.
The following are a list of the participants directly involved in each workshop:
• 25 primary school children:
• 2 primary school teachers;
• 1 workshop operator;
• 1 scene photographer;
• 1 video-maker;
• 2 educational coordinators from Accademia Teatro alla Scala

The workshop is divided into three stages:
Stage 1: Rhythm and voice as the primary musical instrument
The first stage in the workshop involves listening to music as a activity game: the children draw whatever ideas the music stimulates in them, they match different kinds of music to the different stages of a story...
During the second stage, Orff instruments will be distributed to the pupils with which they shall practise doing exercises in rhythm of increasing difficulty, to which then body movements will also be gradually combined.
The third stage will see voice, as a third element, being combined with rhythm and movement.

Period: January/February 2013
Total number of hours: 7
• Exercises to stimulate listening skills;
• Exercises to develop coordination between rhythm and movement;
• Activities for experimenting with voice.
• Listening to music;
• Percussion and the Orff educational approach.

Stage 2: Singing
The second stage will centre only on the singing aspect. To begin with, the children will be given an opportunity to develop confidence with their voices, by singing easy melodies in a group, without any form of instrumental accompaniment. Subsequently, they will begin to combine percussion sounds with their body movements, towards the end of which 2 or 3 voices will also be added.
Singing is an important and highly social event, as the coral experience is one that kindles our sentiments, leaving us feeling emotionally gratified.

Period: March-April 2013
Total number of hours: 6
• All-vocal exercises;
• Singing exercises with rhythmic accompaniment;
• 2 or 3 voice exercises.
• Songs from the Kodaly method;
• Rhythmic exercises using instruments from the Orff approach.

Stage 3: Final Performance
The final performance is an important way of viewing the objectives reached at the end of the workshop, however, the children will experience it as a festive celebration without any hint of stress.
Period: May 2013
Total number of hours: 3
• The children take part in selecting a range of songs to be included on the programme.
• Section and group rehearsals.

Educational methods based on game activities are an ideal way of stimulating children's early acquaintance of music, as they are a fun and spontaneous way of developing children's listening skills, their powers of attention, sense of coordination and social behaviour, all of which, in addition to music, are also indispensible for a more general education of the children in any other sphere of life.

Aims of this project which received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation are:
• Stimulating active listening skills;
• Stimulating sensorial perception;
• Using voice and rhythm to command a regular pulse rate;
• Connecting musical rhythm with the rhythm of the body;
• Exploring the musical and expressive potential of one's body and of everyday objects;
• Using listening exercises to identify the basic expressive elements in present in musical language;
• Encouraging group work and social interaction through non-verval communication;
• Developing awareness of the sound dimension around us;
• Exploring the musical potential of the objects and instruments available;
• Linking music to physical movement;
• Distinguishing the features of sound (intensity, duration, pitch, timbre);
• Expressing oneself through voice and song;
• Using musical excerpts to understanding its basic expressive effects;
• Using the coral experience in order to appreciate the importance of listening;
• Developing children's powers of attention;
• Becoming fully in control of the spatial movements of one's body.

Expected Results:
• Becoming familiar with the languages of music;
• Becoming familiar with the body's physical languages of expression;
• Developing active listening skills for music and sounds in general;
• Stimulating and developing creativity;
• Overcoming social barriers;
• Developing aesthetic appreciation.

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